Monday, April 1, 2013

Shipwrecks of April 1

1814: Picture SS AZTEC.

"The following is used with permission from Dr. E. Lee Spence's daily blog Today's Shipwrecks™ (copyright 2013 by Dr. E. Lee Spence) on"

The United States Revenue Service schooner Gallatin, Captain John H. Silliman, was sunk a few yards off the end of Blake’s Wharf at Charleston, South Carolina, on April 1, 1813, by a violent explosion in her powder magazine. Her stern and quarterdeck were blown entirely away and she sank in just a few minutes. The cause of the explosion was not known and First Lieutenant Philips, who had left the vessel just prior to the explosion, reported that the magazine had been locked. There were 35 men aboard her at the time of the explosion. Gunner’s mate Thomas Feld; George Segur; and another man were reported missing and presumed dead. Gunner William Pritchard; John McCoan; Benjamin Chart; George Craft; and a boy named William Hunter were severely wounded, and several others were slightly wounded. As late as February, 1814, the vessel still had not been raised despite announcements that efforts to raise her were to have begun the day after the explosion. (Note One: She had been originally purchased at Norfolk, Virginia, in December, 1807, by Captain Hugh McNeill as a Treasury Department Revenue Cutter for the Charleston station for $9,432.93. She was named for Albert Gallatin who had been Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson. During her career she was active in suppressing smuggling and frequently assisted merchant vessels, which were in distress. Acting under Navy orders during the War of 1812, the Gallatin intercepted a British privateer on August 6, 1812, and took her after a fierce battle that lasted 8 hours.) (Note Two: The “Charleston Courier” of February 26, 1814, reported that a diving bell had been constructed at Charleston, South Carolina, for the purpose of raising the guns, etc., from the wreck of the United States Revenue Service schooner Gallatin. All previous attempts to raise the wreck intact had failed.)

1816: A small sailboat plying between Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, and Charleston, with a crew of two, was upset in a squall on April 1, 1816, near Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, and one man was drowned.

1818: The vessel Keddington, Captain Bacon, from Jamaica to London, was lost on April 1, 1818, “on Atwood’s Key,” Bahamas. Her crew and part of the cargo were saved.

1835: The sidewheel steamer Augusta caught fire at her wharf at Augusta, Georgia, on April 1, 1835. Four lives were lost and the vessel and her machinery were destroyed. The passengers escaped with their luggage. [Note: The Augusta had a wood hull and was built in 1833 at Savannah, Georgia, which was also her first home port. She was 151 (or 157 tons). The Augusta was owned by the Steam Boat Company.]

1844: The British brig Helen, of Swansea, Captain Simpson, 49 days from Newport, Wales, went ashore on the Hunting Islands, South Carolina, on April 1, 1844. The Helen was also reported as “ashore on the breakers at South Edisto,” South Carolina. She carried a cargo of railroad iron, consigned to J. Gadsden & Nephew, of Charleston, South Carolina. The crew was saved.

1846: The schooner Commerce, Captain Burnham, bound from St. Johns, Florida, for Nassau with a cargo of lumber, was “wrecked at Harbor Island” (Harbour Island, Bahamas) on April 1, 1846.

1859: The steamboat Augusta was destroyed by fire on April 1, 1859, while she was tied up at Grey’s Point, below Silver Bluff on the Savannah River, forty miles below Augusta, Georgia. Mr. Henry Day (the first engineer who was a citizen of Savannah) and “three negro men” were drowned. The Augusta was burned to the water’s edge and, along with her cargo, was a total loss. (Note: She carried 778 bales of cotton and 538 barrels of flour, which was insured in New York, Boston, and Savannah. The boat originally cost $15,000 and was not insured. If based on the price of gold, her cost in today’s dollars, would have been well over $1,000,000.)

1860: The small steamboats Cherokee and Calhoun were burnt at Rome, Georgia, on April 1, 1860. (Note One: The Cherokee was owned by the Alabama Planters Steamboat Company and the loss was put at $14,000. $4,000 was covered by insurance. The Cherokee had cost $17,000 and had run about fourteen months.) (Note Two: The Calhoun was owned by the Oostanaula Steamboat Company. She was a new vessel, having run only three or four weeks on the Oostanaula River. She had cost $6,000 and was not insured.) (Note Three: These losses don’t sound like much until viewed in today’s dollars, which would have been over $3,000,000.)

1917: The first armed American merchant ship sunk by a German submarine in World War I was the SS Aztec. The Aztec, 3,727 tons, bound from New York for France, was shelled and torpedoed on April 1, 1917. She sank very near the Ile D’Ouessant (Isle d’Ushant). She carried foodstuffs; general supplies; tinplate; 448,195 pounds of refined copper ingots; 42 barrels of lead acetate weighing a total of 23,385 pounds; 1949 barrels of zinc oxide weighing a total of 265,325 pounds, and 52 boxes of metallic cadmium weighing a total of 7,500 pounds. Today the copper would be worth over $1,500,000; and the cadmium another $90,000. The zinc and lead would also have considerable value. But don’t get too excited, the copper was partially salvaged by an Italian firm in 1956.

1942: The British freighter Eastmoor, 5,812 tons, bound from Savannah to England via Halifax, was sunk by the German submarine U-71 off the Virginia coast in latitude 37°33′ North, longitude 68°18′ West. She carried 273 tons of zinc, 317 tons of steel ingots, 1,063 tons of pig iron, 1,052 tons of zinc bars, 91 tons of magnesium metal ingots, and 444 tons of cannon powder. At $0.90 per pound, the zinc is worth about $2,385,000. Depending on its purity, magnesium sells for about $2.45 making it worth about $445,900. Based solely on the time period, she may have also carried some silver.

Thanks to Dr E Lee Spence

Kathy Dowsett

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